eBook formats

E-Book Formats - Choose the right one for your book

Nowadays, not all books are printed on paper. Most of them are also available as e-books. But here too, as with haptic titles, there are different e-book formats. Although they do not differ in size, design and layout, compatibility with the e-book reader plays a role here. A look at the e-book market shows that book authors significantly increase their sales opportunities if they publish not exclusively in e-books but also in print.

What is an e-book?

E-book stands for "electronic book" and refers to the digital version of a book. The format has become quite popular: about a quarter of Germans read on their tablet, mobile phone or an e-book reader. This means that readers can always have their favourite books and even thick tomes with them without having to lug them around heavy. It is also usually easy to change font size or font type, search for text passages or, depending on the reading device, look up or translate words. In the same way, links and media such as film elements can be included in an e-book. Before we take a look at the individual e-book formats, let's take a brief look at the situation on the e-book market.

How is the e-book market developing?

At the Publication you shouldn't rely on e-books alone. The number of e-book titles is growing faster than sales. While overall sales in the book market are stagnant, there are more and more titles coming to market. This means that sales of the individual book are dropping. Just Self-Publisher have a hard time holding their own, regardless of what e-book format they publish in.

The majority of total sales are still in haptic book formats. E-books now account for 7.5 percent of total sales in the first half of 2020, up from about one percent just ten years ago in 2011. If you publish your novel exclusively as an e-book, you're missing out on over 90 percent of potential sales.

What e-book formats are available?

Depending on the device you want to offer your e-book for, it needs a different file format. Some e-book formats are supported by many e-book readers, others only work on a specific reader. ePUB is considered an open standard, but cannot be opened on an Amazon Kindle. There is a separate file format for this, which in turn is only supported by Kindle products.


The most common e-book format is ePUB. The abbreviation stands for "electronic publication" and means "electronic publication". It is considered an open standard for e-books and is supported by almost all readers. In the latest version, numerous text formatting and media can also be implemented. However, it cannot be read on Amazon Kindle devices.

Amazon Kindle

Numerous e-book readers rely on the open standards - in contrast, Amazon provides its own e-book format. Books optimised for Kindle e-book readers are sold via the Kindle Shop and can also be read via a Kindle app on a PC, tablet or smartphone. The AZW format is only used by Amazon, so it can only be read with Amazon Kindle devices. These do not support ePUB files at the same time. Since a few years, Amazon also offers the KFX format with improved font options, MOBI files are considered the predecessor.


Many e-book readers can display PDF files. However, a PDF is a document with an embedded layout and does not adapt to the reader or the reader's needs. Especially for books with figures and tables that need to be displayed correctly, the PDF format is preferred.

The e-book formats at a glance

E-book reader

Kindle Reader


Apple iPad

Supported file formats

Amazon Kindle Formats, PDF


ePUB, PDF, Apple's own format iBooks, Amazon Kindle formats through corresponding app

Unsupported file formats


Amazon Kindle Formats


Which e-book format is suitable for which book?

Which e-book format you choose depends entirely on which distribution channel you want to use and which reader you want your book to be optimized for. If you publish your book in Amazon format, you will only reach Kindle users. The ePUB format will give you a wider reach, but it won't open on Amazon devices. If it will be read mostly on a PC and contains illustrations and tables, the PDF format is suitable.

To easily create your own e-book, you can use programs like Calibre or Sigil, also some Authoring Software offer the possibility to transform the manuscript accordingly.

Are you publishing your book through self-publishing provideryou don't need to concern yourself with this question. For example, tredition converts your uploaded manuscript into the usual e-book files so that it can be read on all reading devices.

Copy protection

To prevent your book from being copied illegally, there is a copy protection, a so-called DRM. This stands for Digital Rights Management and means Digital Rights Processing. A distinction is made between hard and soft copy protection. Although there are instructions on how to remove a copy protection, legally your book is protected by the Copyright protected and removal prohibited.

Hard copy protection

Hard copy protection does not prevent the e-book from being copied, but does not allow it to be read on another device. This allows Kindle e-books to be viewed only on Amazon devices and the corresponding app.

Soft copy protection

Soft copy protection consists of a watermark that is integrated into the e-book. However, it is usually not visible. If the e-book is passed on, this copy protection makes it possible to trace who made the e-book available.

Advantages and disadvantages of e-books



Transport countless books easily

No haptic reading experience

No waste of paper

Not all formats readable on all readers

Interactive reading experience with embedded media and links

Battery must be charged (even if only after a long reading time)

Numerous functions from customizable layout and markup to dictionary and translation

Low share of turnover

Display of the remaining reading time based on the reading speed

Buy books directly in the integrated shop


Correct errors easily


Lower manufacturing costs, quickly available


E-book or printed book?

The ability to read comfortably and easily from anywhere has greatly changed reading behavior. Instead of reading at home, people now read more often on the go - mainly digitally - and the amount of time spent reading each day has also increased. E-book readers are increasingly found on the sofa or in the bedroom instead of printed books. They are also particularly popular on the bus or at the beach. Instead of stowing numerous books in your luggage, all you need is a small device.

Nevertheless, many readers still prefer to hold an actual book in their hands. The feeling of turning the pages or even the elaborately designed cover - these experiences cannot be replaced with an e-book. Collectors also prefer printed books for their bookshelves. However, this does not mean that they take them with them on holiday to read, but often opt for paperbacks or e-books.

Which publication form is suitable for your manuscript depends on the genre and the target group. Children's books with fold-out or tactile elements or picture-rich Cookbooks come best as large-format hardcovers, and workbooks with note fields are probably most helpful as paperbacks. But especially frequent readers of novels and Nonfiction benefit from the flexible format.

In addition, errors can be quickly revised and updated in the e-book, and the font type and size are not as relevant compared to the printed book, because they can be adjusted according to the reader's wishes. As an author, you also benefit from lower production costs than with a paperback or hardcover and your text is available after just one click and does not require any time for printing and delivery. Through tredition, you can easily publish your novel as an e-book, paperback and hardcover at the same time and thus serve the preferred output format for every reader.

The history of the e-book

The idea of offering literature in electronic form has been around since the 1970s. The first e-book in history is considered to be the American Declaration of Independence, which a student transcribed onto the computer on the occasion of Independence Day and offered for download online. The first hypertext novel, Afternoon, by Michael Joyce, appeared in the mid-1980s. By the 90s, thanks to the Goodmberg project, there were over 1,000 titles and the first portable e-book readers were developed.

For $2.50 at the time, horror author Stephen King offered his novel "Riding the Bullet" exclusively online in the late 1990s, and after just 48 hours it was downloaded 500,000 times. In 2000, the first service providers launched an option for authors to have their books produced in print-on-demand or distributed online. Since 2010, such providers have also existed in German-speaking countries.


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